Preview of the Miami Heat’s matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Clippers (33-17) @ Heat (29-22)
Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami, Florida
When: Sunday, Feburary 7th 2:00 PM EST
Watch: ABC, FS-SUN, NBA League Pass
Since their four-game losing streak in the middle of January, the Miami Heat have six of their past seven games. In that span, the Heat have also gotten healthier, as Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside have healed up their injuries, though Tyler Johnson was lost for an undisclosed amount of time.
On Superbowl Sunday, however, the Heat will have their biggest test during this hot run, right before the All-Star break, with the Los Angeles Clippers coming to town. Last time these two teams squared off, the Clippers won 104-90, despite Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan missing the game with ailments. The Clippers will again be without Griffin for Sunday’s game.
The Clippers will come into the game with a 33-17 record and sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference. The Heat come into the game at 29-22 and are the fifth place team in the Eastern Conference.
While the Heat have played better of late, alarmingly, their defensive efficiency has slipped out of the top 5 and their offense is currently tied for the 23rd most efficient in the NBA. Those are two indicators that the Heat may not be as good as we believed before the season.
Matchup to Watch: Chris Paul vs Goran Dragic
Despite a poor shooting performance from the field (6-17), Chris Paul scored 15 points, dished out 12 assists, and grabbed 6 rebounds. Dragic was unavailable to play that night due to his calf injury and Paul took over, with the Clipps playing 14 points better with him on the court.
Dragic will play this game and he’ll be healthy as well. Since his return from injury, Dragic is averaging 10.8 points and 6.8 assists on 46 percent shooting. More importantly, he’s helped stabilize the point guard position and the starting lineup.
Despite the Heat being 4-1 since Dragic returned from his injury, the Heat are going to need a bigger performance against the Clipps from Dragic to win Sunday’s game. That means Dragic will need to be more aggressive and handle the ball more, and look for his own shot more.
X-Factor: Hassan Whiteside
Hassan Whiteside is coming off his an impressive 10-point, 10-rebound, 10-block triple double, in the Heat’s 98-95 victory over the Hornets. Remarkably, Whiteside did this coming off the bench, with A’mare Stoudemire still in the starting role.
I’d expect Spolestra to insert Whiteside back into the starting lineup for Sunday’s game, as DeAndre Jordan could become way too much for Stat to handle.
Last time these two teams squared off in mid-January, Whiteside scored 10 and grabbed 11 rebounds, despite the absence of Jordan from that game. The Heat ultimately fell to the Clippers 104-90 in that one and will look for a better performance. Whiteside also began that game off the bench.
Miami Heat offensive efficiency: T-23rd, 101.6 points per 100 possessions
Miami Heat defensive efficiency: 6th, 100.1 points per 100 possessions
Los Angeles Clippers offensive efficiency: 5th, 106.2 points allowed per 100 possessions
Los Angeles Clippers defensive efficiency: T-8th, 101.0 points allowed per 100 possessions